Today, the Montana Wildlife Federation and twelve affiliate rod and gun clubs representing tens-of-thousands of hunters called on Representative Matt Rosendale to withdraw his co-sponsorship of legislation that would defund the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and gut federal funding for wildlife conservation and hunter education programs across the nation.
H.R. 8167, the “Return our Constitutional Rights Act of 2022,” would essentially repeal one of the most important pieces of legislation for wildlife management and hunting, the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act. Passed in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act sets aside the revenue from federal excise taxes on firearms and archery equipment for grants to state fish and wildlife agencies for wildlife management and hunter education. The Pittman-Robertson Act is used to this day to provide robust funding to state fish and wildlife management agencies.
In a letter to Rosendale, the groups reiterated the importance of the Pittman-Robertson funding, stating “Pittman-Robertson is the backbone of the management that ensures that fish and wildlife that are pursued by hunters and anglers continue to flourish. It is a key element in the phrase hunters proclaim proudly:“hunting is conservation”.
FWP’s largest source of federal funding comes from both the Pittman-Robertson Act and the similar Dingell-Johnson Act, which provides funding to states to support recreational fishing. In total, both sources of funding account for nearly 20 percent of FWP’s budget.
While H.R. 8167 purports to direct federal oil and gas revenue into the Pittman Robertson Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund instead of firearms excise taxes, the bill is actually written to completely repeal the core Trust Fund and direct additional funding into a different set of programs that are targeted at non-game wildlife conservation. While that latter goal is crucially important – and the subject of separate pending federal legislation, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which enjoys bipartisan support – H.R. 8167 would end all federal funding for the management of game species and their habitats, as well as funding for hunter safety education and public shooting ranges.
In addition to all of the benefits of robust conservation funding, signers of the letter to Rosendale emphasized to the need to protect the conservation legacy that has been created by Pittman-Robertson: “Montana hunters take pride in being the primary source of funding for state wildlife management agencies through the Pittman-Robertson Act as well as hunting/fishing license sales. These funding mechanisms are critical to the future persistence of both game and nongame species. We again urge you to listen to the voices of hunters across the state and withdraw your support for H.R. 8167.”
Signers of the letter included the Montana Wildlife Federation, Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association, Laurel Rod and Gun Club, Bearpaw Bowmen, Hellgate Hunters and Anglers, Montana Artemis Alliance, Helena Hunters and Anglers, American Bear Foundation, Flathead Wildlife Inc., Montana Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Anaconda Sportsmen’s Club, Public Land Water Access Association and Traditional Bowhunters of Montana.
Contact: Frank Szollosi, executive director, Montana Wildlife Federation, 406-417-9909